Aubriona’s days are often consumed with medical procedures and the disappointment of watching her peers from the sidelines. But while riding horseback through the Great Smoky Mountains, she had the opportunity to enjoy life on her own terms.
“My daughter felt so special the time we were gone,” Aubriona’s mom, Erikia, said of her daughter’s wish trip to Tennessee. “She felt like someone cared about what she was going through.”
Since Aubriona was diagnosed with a blood disorder four years ago at the age of eight, her family constantly fears that she will bruise or bleed uncontrollably. She has regular blood transfusions to help her, but the worry is constant four years after diagnosis.
“Our lives have changed dramatically, with always worrying when she’s at school or anywhere else,” Erikia said. “We have to miss work and she misses school a lot so that she can have her IVIG treatments. This is an all-day event each time at a hospital an hour away.”
The adjustment was hard for Aubriona, now 12, who faces limitations on her physical activity; she is unable to be active like her friends and classmates for fear of injury.
But she got to pick out exactly what she wanted to do on her wish trip in Gatlinburg, Tenn., from her family’s overnight lodging – a cozy log cabin – to horseback riding as the main event.
“Our favorite highlight was the horseback riding,” Erikia said. “It was such a great experience for the whole family. We loved the time away in a nice, cozy place, to not have to worry about anything. [It was] much needed family time just to enjoy life.”
The family first went to Tennessee for a vacation in February 2012, just a few months before Aubriona was diagnosed. Her wish not only revisited a memory from before her illness, but also allowed her to add new experiences.
“I guess she had so much fun she wanted to go back,” Erikia said. “We couldn’t afford to do a lot the first time. She loves the mountains and is interested in the cabins, so she decided on staying in one. Horseback riding is the love of her life. She loves horses; that is all she talks about and [she learns] so much about them.”
Though it was Aubriona’s wish trip, her whole family was relieved to spend the week on vacation. Aubriona’s last trip to Tennessee marked the end of an era, but her wish trip reflected the parts of her young life that still bring her so much joy.
After four years of caution and costly medical treatments, Erikia’s favorite part of the trip was seeing Aubriona allowed to just focus on being a kid.
“It meant the world to me that she got to do whatever she wished,” Erikia said. “I loved seeing her so happy doing things she loves to do.”
It meant the world to me that she got to do whatever she wished. I loved seeing her so happy doing things she loves to do.
Erikia, wish mom